On Monday, Team Writer/Reporter Brianna Dix and I contemplated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2023 schedule in a macro sense, debating which stretch of games was going to be the team's toughest challenge this fall. Now we're going to zoom in for a closer look.
There are a lot of rather intriguing games on this 17-game slate. The defending NFC champs are coming to town and a prime-time audience will be watching. There's another cross-country trip to that other Bay area, which is always interesting. There is a seemingly endless line of headline-making quarterbacks waiting to face the Bucs' defense, from stars like Josh Allen and Trevor Lawrence to highly-drafted rookies like Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud. And we haven't even mentioned Brock Purdy.
The Bucs will play five road games inside domes, if that's your thing. They will also visit a football mecca, heading to Lambeau Field in mid-December. There are the usual division-rival stops, which tend to get a little heated. Two of the more fun, on-the-rise teams from 2022 will come to Tampa, with the Lions visiting in October and the Jaguars in December.
Now let's say you only get to choose one game from all of those options. That's what Brianna and I are going to do today. When the full NFL schedule dropped last week, there were certain dates that immediately jumped off the page, the ones we just can't wait to see how they unfold. We're going to argue about which one is the absolute best.
This is the third in our week-long series of schedule-related debates. Here's the run-down for the whole series:
Friday, May 12: What one thing would you most like to thank the NFL schedule makers for this year?
Monday, May 15 What is the toughest stretch of games on this year's schedule?
Tuesday, May 16 What is your most anticipated game on the Bucs' 2023 schedule?
Wednesday, May 17: Who is the top rookie the Buccaneers will face on their 2022 schedule?
Thursday, May 18: What is one thing you would change about the Bucs' schedule if you had the power?
Brianna and I are not going to duplicate answers, so the order of our debate is important. It is once again Brianna's turn to go first.
Brianna Dix: Week 11 at San Francisco
I could have gone with the contest against the Bills but for the purposes of this topic, I am going to go with the marquee matchup against the defending NFC West champ, San Francisco 49ers. This game will serve as a true litmus test for the Bucs, unlike any other in my opinion. Get the popcorn ready for a rematch of the Week 14 clash last season in which the 49ers cruised to a 35-7 trouncing of the Bucs.
That game turned into a nightmare for Bucs fans in the other Bay, as the 49ers fired on all cylinders. In Santa Clara, Tampa Bay struggled to find synergy last season. Positive plays were brought back due to self-inflicted wounds and the Bucs could not effectively run the ball on early downs, which forced the club to become one-dimensional in must-pass situations on third-and-long. The Bucs' inability to sustain drives put Tampa Bay's defense on the field for an extended period of time against some of the NFL's best multi-faceted weapons: George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey and Kyle Juszczyk.
In the 2023 Week 11 showdown, the Bucs will seek revenge, striving to cement their role as a repeat division leader. The NFC South will be up for grabs in 2023 and this non-division matchup could give the Buccaneers the confidence boost they need to remain atop the pecking order. Scott, what game are you circling on the calendar?
Scott Smith: Week 15 at Green Bay
As I briefly noted when we were sending out kudos to the schedule-makers last Friday, I almost selfishly picked this game but had to admit the experience will probably be more enjoyable for those of us in the press box rather than the guys doing the actual work out in the elements. However, I think this answer works quite nicely for this particular question.
Do you know how many times the Buccaneers have played in Green Bay in December since they left the former NFC Central Division in 2002? Exactly once. That was in 2017 and the kickoff temperature was a balmy 42 degrees and rising. Come on! That's not the real Lambeau Field experience. I don't just want to visit that cradle of football, I want the full Frozen Tundra™ experience. I want snow falling slowly onto the field, making it a little harder to make out exactly what's happening.
Oh yeah, the football teams. There's plenty of intrigue in this matchup as it is, regardless of the venue. The Bucs did get a rather cold outing at Lambeau Field in the playoffs in 2020, upsetting the Packers, 31-26, in the NFC Championship Game on their way to capturing the Lombardi Trophy (named, of course, after the legendary Packers coach). The top storyline of that game was obvious: two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, doing battle in a game that would help cement one of their legacies. Now, both the Buccaneers and Packers are charting a new course after Brady retired and Rodgers got his trade to the Jets. Will it be Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask for the Bucs? Is Jordan Love ready to keep the Packers' three-decade assembly line of superstar quarterbacks going?
This game is in Week 15, so both teams should know the answers to those questions by then, but it will still be interesting to see those storylines cross paths. And which quarterback will get the most help – the Buccaneers have the seasoned duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin while the Packers have used the last two years to infuse their pass-catching corps with a bevy of young talent. Can Green Bay's once-dominant offensive line evade the injury bug this year? Will the Buccaneers' efforts to pump up its pass-rush in this year's draft have come to fruition by December?
I could go on, but I think I'll circle back to the top: Lambeau Field in December? Count me in.